You’ve seen those home cooking shows on the Food Network. You know the ones, where Rachel Ray breaks out a box of chicken stock to make a quick meal have depth and complexity all within 30 minutes!
I have nothing against Rachel Ray but come’n man.. she uses the “Rachel Ray” brand of boxed stock. Look at most soup recipes that are geared for the general public, they all want you to add chicken stock as the main liquid.
Which is fine, if you feel like adding water and salt and who knows how many parts of questionable chickens. If you care at all about where your meat comes from, aren’t you curious about the provenance of that stock?
Don’t even get me started on vegetable stock. Stock? Puh-lease! It’s water, salt, dehydrated vegetables and food coloring. That’s it. Surprised?
Now, let me tell you a little story. The French technique based restaurant I worked at had a soup on the menu every day on a seasonal and rotational basis. In winter we did a lot of cream of celery root or butternut squash type situations. Not once did I ever add stock. Stock was reserved for pan sauces and heated to order, mounted with butter and plated.
So what did I use? Water.
See, the point of a butternut squash soup is to taste the squash. The produce is seasonal and after roasting it, seasoning it and blending it with créme fraiche or cream you strain it through a chinois (a cone shaped fine mesh sieve) until it reaches the desired texture. Then you thin with water as needed.
Do you see what I did there? As needed.
But also, water. When I braise beans I use water. When I make a white sauce for pasta I use water. There is so much going on what’s the point of adding stock just so it can compete with my other flavors?
What thins my aioli? Water. What thins my brown butter hollandaise? Water.
I dare you to take any recipe that calls for chicken stock, minus actual chicken soup but you’d be better off tossing a chicken in some water, and substitute water and a little extra salt and pepper to taste.
Go on, give it a try. I double dare you with a cherry on top.